When Refused reemerged at Coachella in 2012, fans of inventive and politically radical punk were overjoyed, but they knew not to expect much more. The Swedish band had been dormant since the 1998 release of "The Shape of Punk to Come" and had insisted that that round of reunion touring would be temporary.
Now the band has made a sudden about-face. It has a brand-new album coming. "Freedom," the quartet's first new album in 17 years, will be out June 30 on the estimable L.A. punk label Epitaph.
"Nobody wanted us to [mess] with the image of the band who makes a great album and splits up," wrote drummer David Sandström, in a statement. "Nobody wanted us to dilute it. That actually provoked us."
To some, the personnel for "Freedom" may be striking. The band has parted ways with longtime guitarist Jon Brännström (he sounded heartbroken in his breakup note: "We've had our ups and downs, but we've made art together and have been tied to together through Refused for twenty years. I used to be proud to call these people my friends"), replaced by Kristofer Steen. Also brought aboard: producer Nick Launay, who worked on records by Gang of Four, Nick Cave and Arcade Fire.
Most interesting, though, are two tracks the band produced with Shellback, a fellow Swede and longtime Refused fan who also lent his pop sheen to
You can't hear too much of his Top-40 pop influence in the biting post-punk cuts like "Elektra" (listen to it here) or "366," but you can hear a clarity and vitality in the mixes that suggest Shellback added his studio precision but still let Refused be Refused.
The band hits the Roxy in West Hollywood on May 26. Alongside Health's "Death Magic," this is going to be an excellent summer for big, statement comeback records from the wilds of noise and punk.